Group Trip Problems?

Ive just returned from my I think 15th group trip lead by me, and decided to write this blog post to answer a repeated thought that came to a lot of the participants minds prior to joining the group trips Ive ran and any group trip for that matter; the concerns to join a group of strangers and the sort of problems that they could encounter.

In this blog post I will address three things; when should you consider joining a group trip, the concerns of joining a group trip and how to manage them, and the problems I faced being a group trip leader or a group trip organizer as well.

Let me highlight when (in my opinion) should you consider going on a group trip rather than traveling with your own comfort zone, friends, family or significant other alone.

  • When you are in the mindset to share a trip with new people. Every now and then, as much as we enjoy traveling with our loved ones and those who are close to us, we need some time off. We need to be around new people that we don’t know and those who don’t know us at all. It’s refreshing and great! It brings you back with stories, new friendships or even new knowledge of other people and cultures.
  • When you feel like you want a new experience. Sometimes, we get comfortable with the things we like to do we forget about other stuff that we might actually enjoy doing. Traveling in a group trip and sometimes going on experiences and doing things that you usually won’t be doing on your own or with your friend would definitely allow you to experience new experiences and new things. You might find out new passions, new hobbies and new interests that you weren’t aware of. Being on group trips for sure helps!
  • When you want to unplug your mind from planning, and thinking of what to do and when to do it, and let someone else do the planning for you. Planning a trip as you might know is not the easiest thing especially if you feel like you don’t want to miss on anything in that destination. Some destinations also need a lot of effort planning and figuring them out; so in this case and if you don’t feel like planning, its ideal to join a pre-planned trip where you don’t have to worry about things going wrong, places you don’t see, you don’t visit as someone else have done the plan.. all you need to do is read the plan, make sure its to your basic liking and sign up with them!
  • When planning for a place is just too complicated, and you and your friend or your spouse want to share another ready-made planned trip with others where you share the fun with and make the plan as well as logistics so much easier.
  • When you feel that visiting a destination is cooler and better when traveling with like-minded people. For example if you feel like traveling to a Safari, where your friends and family don’t share the same taste or desire to travel to that place; then you can easily jump on a group trip where everyone share the same desire to go on a Safari.
  • When you’re a solo traveler, but uncomfortable to go to a specific destination because its not recommended to travel alone to it.. group trips are definitely a good alternative!

Is traveling with a group always amazing and problems-free? Let me elaborate further on this point..

As I get to meet my group-members arriving from different parts of the world/Middle East or even GCC, I usually do an introduction dinner where I ask them about their expectations, concerns and what they look forward to during the trip. I last do a farewell dinner and ask the same questions again only to know whether or not their expectations were met, their concerns were eliminated and their general feedback.

Traveler’s Side

From the traveler’s side, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when traveling in a group trip and some answers to your questions:

A) Have you heard before about the groups of that specific organizer? Are they your style usually or the complete opposite?? Is that opposite something you’re keen on exploring, or you just prefer a specific style and aren’t willing to try? Example; if you prefer camping but you’re going on a full on-luxury where you feel way off. Then think, is that something you’ll be open to try or are you not keen on trying anyway? Its always important to know and remember you’re in a group setting; if you start complaining you might ruin it for others too. Hence, it’s always good to ask around and know at least that you are up for it knowing the group/trip/leader style of travel. From my experience, I’ve had VERY minimal number of complainers. The whole group is usually coming wanting the same thing and the rest usually tag along perfectly. Some complain, but not to the point where they’d ruin an entire trip for the others (Thankfully!).

B) Read VERY-WELL the details of the itinerary to have the best time. You cannot go not knowing at least basics of the plan you’re going to be on. It is always recommended to read for many reasons simplest being to avoid being disappointed that you’re waking up at 5 AM when that’s something you are just absolutely against. If there’s a plan to wakeup and watch sunrise, then you need to know to either 1) join and be open about it or 2) tell your leaders you will not join that particular activity prior to the activity itself.. This will also help you avoid complaining about the things you get to try even if they’re out of your comfort zone because you decided you wanted to try. Always good to know that others don’t need to hear you complain.

C) You’ll be with a group of strangers most likely.. You’ll need to be open, respectful, helpful and flexible. People might be like you and that’s a big yay.. but also they might be different than you; so you cannot be close-minded and not accept them as they are. Judgmental and strongly opinionated people are always encouraged to enjoy the comfort of non-group travel.

D) If you have a problem with anyone or anything, it is always best to inform your group leader and let them handle it. Also, always inform your group leader about your restrictions, medical conditions, allergies and what-not to ensure they are aware of any important detail they should be aware of. Privacy of such matters isn’t the best or the smartest thing to do.

Group Leader Side

There’s no doubt that traveling as a group can be a challenge. I get asked a lot whether or not Ive encountered problems with my groups and the answer is always YES. I do encounter problems; but most importantly I ensure that the group is still having a good time. The problems I encounter are always from a managerial perspective in which the group members don’t get to feel it.

Whats good about my groups is that they don’t usually exceed 15 persons; I always try to get to know and have a conversation with every single member of the group. I like networking, and I want the group to get to know each other.. once the group gets bigger than this, the chance of this happening reduces so I keep it at a small-ish group. Again, I like experiences and in my opinion you get the most of it when the group is relatively smaller. That said, will it mean its easier for me to manage? No.

Managing hotel rooms, extensions, changing rooms, canceling activities, adding activities, switching activities, making sure the weather helps, doesn’t help, keep the group happy is a HUGE pressure.

The biggest challenge I’ve face but managed to overcome through out different tricks is time management. The travelers that join me the most come from a relaxed-timing culture. When I mentioned meeting at 9, people show up at 9:30. I always find out what type of commitment the group I’m with has from day 1; and tailor the timing accordingly thereafter. When the group sticks to time, the trip becomes so much smoother and easier especially when there’s a time-schedule. When the group does not stick to time, many things might end up being cancelled (again, all depends on the trip and the activities scheduled). That said, many of the group members that traveled with me have given me this feedback more or less: “I’m so impressed with how everyone is sticking to time. I thought coming from the culture we come from, I’ll be waiting forever for people to get ready.. this is so comforting!”. Hearing this feedback constantly makes that factor so important and reiterates the importance of that bit in particular.

Second biggest challenge I’ve faced are those who do not read the program I share or the itinerary sent to them. The same question gets asked 100 times and it only exhausts the leaders of the trip having to explain the same points over and over again when its ready in the program shared and short summaries usually shared with groups. I say its a challenge cause its energy-draining. I rather love being a leader, group’s photographer at times, entertainer than someone who answers questions that are already answered.. Do I let the group know I’m bothered? NEVER. That doesn’t change the fact that it drains my energy.

Third challenge but not that big is when someone forgets they’re on a group trip and starts making requests and demands as if they are on their own personal trips; I want to see that particular shop. I want to buy this particular item, find me that shop. As much as I’d love to insert their agenda and plan to the itinerary, but it is important to remember that this is a scheduled pre-planned trip; they could always share with me their likings and wants IF possible and IF the schedule allows; what I don’t like about it though when they insist, and start annoying everyone around them and mostly the group leaders. Again, do I convey that I’m not happy about the requests? Honestly at this point yes I try but respectfully by reminding them that we might not have the time to do it, but if time allows we’ll try to do it. I though don’t like it anyway.

All other challenges I’ve faced were manageable and not worth highlighting as things usually happen along the trips. It is important for group leaders to know to manage the group members and to try to control and react to different situations and circumstances. Always remember, people are traveling to enjoy their times, to make it worth while for them..

My final words are this: The trip is only as good as how you want it to be. If you are seeking comfort, positivity, fun and experiences then you’ll find them. If you’re seeking trouble, inflexibility, going in an own trip mentality in a group trip setting then not only you’ll not have fun, but sometimes you’ll make people around you feel uncomfortable. What I am saying is, sign up for the group trip, but also be aware of that you are on a group trip; so make the best out of it while you’re on it.. you might just NOT stop traveling on group trips once you start…

So far, I felt like those who traveled with me became like my family! When I see them, it brings back amazing memories, laughter, great times and shared moments that will never go away from memories.. This is way no matter how hard and challenging it gets, I remember those feelings and moments and I just continue to see the smiles, the laughter and the happiness.

I don’t know if this is something I will do forever, but for sure I will continue to do it until I decide I stop (hopefully not anytime soon? haha).

Safe travels, and I hope I get to see you on my group trips (or see you again!:D)

Fatima AlMattar

Leave a Reply